TIME Food & Drink

6 Best Cheeses for Burgers

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Go beyond cheddar

As chefs Michael Chiarello and Sang Yoon discuss in their Chefs in Conversation video, there are a lot of ways to screw up a burger. One way to make sure you’re treating a burger right is to top it with really great cheese. Here, the six best cheeses for burgers.

Cheddar
Perhaps the most popular option behind American cheese, salty cheddar holds up to strong flavors like the barbecue sauce on these incredible chicken burgers or the bacon and Russian dressing on these BLT burgers.

Brie
Ultra-gooey, creamy Brie takes any burger to the next, luxe level. Try it melted on top of these bacon burgers or stuffed into these scallion-flecked burgers.

Goat Cheese
Tangy goat cheese is a lighter choice for cheese. It’s great on these salty, sweet, piquant green-chile bacon burgers or these simple but super-filling double-decker burgers.

Smoked Gouda
Smoked Gouda and smoky barbecue sauce are a perfect match. Try the pairing on these messy burgers from Slows Bar-B-Q. It’s also a perfect complement to spicy horseradish on these flavorful turkey burgers.

Monterey Jack
This is one of the best cheeses for melting, which makes it perfect for a super-gooey cheese sauce like the one on Bobby Flay’s nacho burgers. Thanks to its mild flavor, Monterey Jack can also handle bold Italian flavors like those in Michael Symon’s 50/50 burgers made with hot Italian sausage and ground chuck.

Stilton
Pungent, salty and stinky, Stilton is for real cheese lovers and big, bold burgers like these topped with an insanely good port reduction. Or try it in small doses, like on these mini cheeseburgers topped with onion jam.

This article originally appeared on Food & Wine.

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TIME Fast Food

Here’s How McDonald’s Became the King of Burgers

Signs are posted on the exterior of a McDonald's restaurant on April 22, 2015 in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Signs are posted on the exterior of a McDonald's restaurant on April 22, 2015 in San Francisco.

As the iconic burger chain turns 75, it faces some of its biggest challenges ever

It is in no way surprising that McDonald’s recent troubles have drawn so much media attention. It’s not just because it’s a huge company, it’s because it is one of a small handful of corporations that are closely associated with the idea America itself, part of our national identity. And that has been the case for most of McDonald’s 75-year history.

There are many reasons for this, but the chief one might have been expressed best by the quotation TIME chose to open its September 17, 1973 cover story on McDonald’s: “The destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they nourish themselves.” The quote came from The Physiology of Taste, written in 1826 by Jean Brillat-Savarin.

 McDonald's 1973
TIME

The cover story was titled “The Burger That Conquered the Country.” At the time—and for decades thereafter—nobody could seriously argue the title’s point. McDonald’s has faced stiff competition all along, from Burger King, from Wendy’s, from Taco Bell, and from any number of other fast-food chains. But none of those competitors ever came close to McDonald’s, especially in terms of image. McDonald’s—even now, when it faces some of its greatest challenges ever—is America’s burger joint.

In the 1973 article (in which McDonald’s main product is rather quaintly referred to as a “ham burger”—two words), TIME declared that if Brillat-Savarin’s quote was correct, “America’s destiny manifestly depends to no small degree on the ham burgers, French fries and milkshakes served beneath the golden arches of McDonald’s.”

Though it would grow much, much larger in the years ahead, McDonald’s was by 1973 a fully realized entity. It employed 130,000 employees in nine countries, and operated 2,500 outlets in the United States. And although Time declared that it “gone from a uniquely American to a truly global operation,” its image remained fully American, as it still does 42 years later—for better and, in some respects, worse.

Our destiny since then has manifested itself largely in our waistlines, a concern that in 1973 was just starting to creep into the national dialogue. The company most often cited by health-conscious critics of our food economy is, of course, McDonald’s. Our economic destiny meanwhile has in recent years manifested itself in the form of a growing wealth gap, with low-wage retail jobs taking the place of vanishing, high-wage manufacturing jobs. The company most-often cited in discussions of this problem (along with Wal-Mart) is, again, McDonald’s.

In the past few years, these trends have hit critical mass, to McDonald’s detriment. Consumer tastes for quick meals remained static for decades. Now they’re changing. Largely motivated by health concerns, but also by the desire for higher-quality eats, diners are increasingly opting for “fast-casual” outlets like Chipotle and Panera Bread. In response, McDonald’s is grasping for solutions that might not exist.

MORE These Are the States With the Most McDonald’s

At the same time, the company is facing pressure on the labor front. In 1973, most of its employees were teenagers working as burger flippers and “window girls.” Now, most of it workers are adults, many of them trying to support families. Last month, the company said it was raising wages and increasing benefits, though that applies only to employees of company-owned outlets, not to franchisees, meaning that most McDonald’s workers aren’t affected.

Officially, McDonald’s traces its history only back to 1955, when businessman Ray Kroc joined the company as a franchise agent. But the first McDonald’s (“McDonald’s Barbecue Restaurant”) actually opened on May 15, 1940, in San Bernardino, Calif. Kroc, impressed by the company’s production-line methods, purchased the chain from the McDonald brothers in 1961, and set about turning it into a burger leviathan.

The chain now includes about 30,000 outlets (14,000 in the United States) in 119 countries and employs about 1.7 million people.

By 1987, TIME was declaring “McDonald’s as a corporation looks more and more like a case study in how to concentrate on providing one service exceedingly well.” Despite all the grief it was taking from critics of its fatty, salt-laden fare and its monolithic corporate image, the company was still largely beloved. “McDonald’s has become such a pervasive reference point in American life that many consumers think of the company as a public institution—one that is often more reliable than the post office or the phone company,” wrote Stephen Koepp.

The company’s growth continued more or less unabated until after the 2008 recession, when the restaurant industry as a whole was hit hard—fast food included. As recently as 2005, TIME was describing fast food as a “quintessentially American dining experience” and a “perfect expression of those bedrock values of efficiency, thriftiness and speed.” Total spending on fast food had quadrupled in the preceding decade.

But even then, fast-food chains—McDonald’s definitely included—saw the writing on the wall, and were working to change their images. Consumers still wanted to dine out, but they were looking for a more pleasant experience, and healthier food. Stores were redesigned, menus were upgraded. Then the recession hit.

Fallen Arches,” read a headline in Fortune magazine last November. “Can McDonald’s Get Its Mojo Back?” The company “has risen to the top of the fast-food chain by being comfortably, familiarly, iconically ‘mass market’ and so ubiquitous as to be the Platonic ideal of ‘convenient,'” wrote Fortune‘s Beth Kowitt. “Neither of these selling points, however, is as high as it was even a decade ago on Americans’ list of dining priorities. A growing segment of restaurant goers are choosing ‘fresh and healthy’ over ‘fast and convenient,’ and McDonald’s is having trouble convincing consumers that it’s both. Or even can be both.”

MORE This Is Why Shake Shack Will Never Be McDonald’s

So much for “providing one service exceedingly well.” If people don’t want that one service, what’s a company to do? McDonald’s is still looking for answers, from making burgers more customizable to adding various new menu items (and subtracting others) to launching attention-getting promotional campaigns with varying degrees of success.

Kale, of all things, provides a nice microcosm for McDonald’s challenges. Several months back, the company made fun of the trendy, often-mocked “superfood” in TV advertisements. Over a camera close-up of the lettuce on a Big Mac, the narrator intoned: “This will never be kale.” Earlier this month, McDonald’s started test-marketing a breakfast bowl consisting of turkey sausage, egg whites, and … kale.

It seems that McDonald’s still hasn’t decided which one service it wants to provide exceedingly well. But America will likely be watching.

TIME Fast Food

Hardee’s New Patriotic Thickburger Looks Like a Delicious Monstrosity

No one man should have all this burger

There’s nothing more patriotic than a beef patty, a split hot dog and handful of greasy potato chips coming together to form a giant, caloric bomb. At least, that must be the thinking behind the new “Most American Thickburger,” coming soon to Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.

In addition to combining three sports stadium staples that are generally bad for you, the burger will also include ketchup, mustard, tomato, red onion, pickles and cheese. All for the low, low health cost of 1,030 calories and 64 grams of fat, according to the Associated Press.

The company is using sexual-but-patriotic imagery to promote the new meal, which arrives at restaurants May 20. The burger will cost $5.79, while a combo with fries and a drink (which will probably approach the total caloric intake a normal person is supposed to have in an entire day) will cost $8.29.

The new burger follows Carl’s Jr’s recent commercial stunt, which featured model Charlotte McKinney strutting around to promote a new “all-natural,” antibiotics-free patty

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Finally, Some Good News About Kids and Fast Food

a fast food tray full of hamburgers
Getty Images

Kids are eating fewer calories from burger, pizza and chicken restaurants

Fast food is rarely the harbinger of good news, but here’s some: kids are eating less of it. According to a new report published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the percentage of kids eating fast food on any given day has dropped, along with the number of calories they consume at certain fast-food joints.

Using data collected from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers found that back in 2003-2004, nearly 39% of American kids were eating fast food regularly. But in 2009-2010, about 33% of kids were eating it. In addition, children consumed fewer calories from burger, pizza and chicken fast-food restaurants. Calories from Mexican and sandwich fast-food restaurants remained stable.

MORE: This Is the Scary Amount of Pizza Kids Are Really Eating

“We’ve seen similar trends in adults, so we suspected the trend would be similar in children,” says study author Colin D. Rehm, a postdoctoral fellow at Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. “What was surprising was the difference in trends by type of fast-food restaurant.”

The study didn’t look at why children were consuming fewer fast-food calories, but Rehm speculates that the trend is due to a combination of factors. “I think some are related to consumer preference and demand, and some are changes made by restaurants, which may include reducing the portion sizes, reformulating existing items or offering different items to potentially replace higher-calorie offerings,” he says. Less likely, he says, is the idea that people are eating less of their meals at each sitting.

During the eight-year period of the study, none of the restaurant types experienced a significant increase in the calories their children customers consumed.

“We saw a decrease in the number of calories per eating occasion, which suggests that a combination of consumer behavior and changes made by the restaurants can actually impact diet and change the amount of calories people are consuming,” says Rehm. “That’s promising. It means people are not unchangeable.”

The researchers acknowledge that their study looked purely at reported calorie consumption, and not on the quality of those calories. “If the calories are dropping and sodium, added sugar and refined grains are increasing, then we haven’t made much progress,” says Rehm. “We are going to need to drill deeper and figure out if the quality of the calories have changed or remained stable. The last thing we want to be doing is replace calories with even poorer quality calories.”

MONEY

Shake Shack Shock: Burger Joint Sees Setback in Shares After First Quarter

Shake Shack saw a dip in shares the day after posting its first quarterly earnings report.

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McDonald’s Will Customize Your Burger — and Shrink Its Menu

The fast-food giant is rolling out several measures to combat slumping sales and regain what the company calls "burger leadership."

TIME Fast Food

McDonald’s Has a Weird New Burger in the Works

File photo of a McDonald's restaurant sign at a McDonald's restaurant in Del Mar, California
Mike Blake—Reuters A McDonald's restaurant sign is seen at a McDonald's restaurant in Del Mar, Calif. on April 16, 2013.

Something fishy's happening at the fast food chain

It’s not a Krabby Patty, exactly, but McDonald’s is releasing a crab-filled burger in Japan. According to Kotaku, the new burger will feature a croquette filled with snow crab and mushrooms and use lettuce and tomato sauce as additional toppings. Even though it’s seafood, McDonald’s Japan is marketing the dish as a burger.

Those hungry for an actual Krabby Patty will have to venture to Palestine, where a restaurant owner has built a replica of the Krusty Krab that, judging by the location’s Facebook page, has yet to be shut down by Nickelodeon’s lawyers.

ModelPress

[ModelPress]

TIME burgers

The Best Burger Joint in the World Is About to Make a Big Change

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Loic Lagarde—Getty Images/Flickr Open

The latest in a growing trend

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

By John Kell

Fast-food burger chain Shake Shack is reportedly planning to launch an initial public offering, the latest dining chain angling to give investors something to chew on.

The company’s majority owner, Union Square Hospitality Group LLC, has reportedly interviewed banks in recent weeks to appoint underwriters for the IPO, Reuters reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter. Shake Shack, which first opened a kiosk in Madison Square Park in New York City, has restaurants in just four U.S. states and the District of Columbia, as well as a few locations abroad.

Shares of consumer-focused restaurant and grocery chains often surge on the first day of trading, as investors place a bet on smaller players they hope can one day be the next Chipotle, Whole Foods, or Panera.

For the rest of the story, please go to Fortune.com.

MONEY Shopping

5 Ways to Trim Your Meat Budget During Barbecue Season

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Carlos Davila—Alamy Flamed grilled steaks on a barbecue

Smart, simple ways to keep the soaring price of beef from ruining your grilling season.

Just in time for prime barbecuing season, there’s been an across-the-board rise in meat prices. Many reasons have been cited for higher prices at the supermarket—lingering drought conditions tend to be blamed the most—but farm groups point to another culprit: you.

Strong consumer demand, especially for high-quality meats, is the primary reason, according to Bob Young, chief economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation. “Consumers are feeling better about themselves and their income situation and willing to pay up for good meat,” Young told The Atlantic recently. “I think that given the stronger demand, folks are going to find not quite the cut they want for the price they want. They might have to downmarket a bit.”

Here are five smart ways to cope without giving up your barbecue fix.

Buy in bulk. Maybe from the back of a truck. No matter if you’re at Costco, Walmart, or your local grocer, you’ll almost always pay a lower per-pound price for steaks, ground beef, and more by purchasing meats in larger packages—over 3 pounds, typically. Foodies and frugality gurus alike often recommend the strategy of buying a side of beef or an entire pig straight from a trusted farmer, though this isn’t always practical for folks who don’t have the freezer space or the desire to sharpen up their butcher’s skills.

One of the more odd and intriguing means of buying in bulk comes from a Washington-based company called Zaycon Foods, whose curious sales procedure—and terrific prices, under $2 a pound for chicken breasts—started attracting national attention more than a year ago. You won’t find the Zaycon brand at any store; instead, the company uses a no-middleman approach to business, in which customers place orders online and pick them up at a prearranged time from the back of a truck that’s waiting in, say, a church parking lot. The meat is never frozen; it’s taken from the farm and loaded onto the refrigerated trucks that wind up at pickup locations. “The products are as fresh as if you had your own farm, but without all the chores,” the Zaycon site explains. This is truly a buy-in-bulk operation, with huge packages you won’t see at the supermarket, or even Costco. An individual order of ground beef or chicken breasts is 40 pounds worth of meat.

The Seattle Times described the typical pickup scene: “The driver arrives at the designated parking lot, spreads out yellow parking cones to create a path for the customers’ cars, and hands off the boxes while checking names on an iPad.” Yet despite the quirkiness (or maybe partly because of it), Zaycon’s business has been thriving. At last check, Zaycon had roughly 1,300 drop-off locations in 48 states. Some 325,000 customers have signed up with the company around the country, up from just 84,000 registered users at the end of 2011.

Freeze now, eat later. It goes without saying that if you’re going to make use of Zaycon, or Costco’s meat section for that matter, owning a large freezer is in a must. Of course, smart grocery shoppers also stock up on meats for grilling when their favorite supermarket has a good sale, or there’s a great coupon circulating, rather than right before the July 4 weekend, when you’ll have to pay top dollar. Yet again, a good—and good-sized—freezer is in order, as is some basic knowledge about defrosting meat safely, without losing flavor.

Master of the art of leftovers. Today’s grilled steak is tomorrow’s shabu-shabu. Sure, you could simply heat up the leftovers and eat, but where’s the fun in that? If done correctly, leftovers won’t taste like leftovers, and they can be stretched out and incorporated into several days’ worth of eating. To spice things up, consult SuperCook and enter the foods and ingredients you have handy to see what new dish you can make. For leftover grilled meats, Real Simple recommends sprinkling barbecue sauce, a marinade, or just water over what you have, then wrapping it in foil and warming over indirect heat for a few minutes. Plain old reheating can dry out the meat.

Don’t be snobby about cheap cuts. Ground beef that’s 90% lean will be more expensive than ground chuck that’s 70% or 80% lean. And guess what? The fattier stuff offers far superior taste in a burger. Whereas burgers made with lean ground beef tend to be dense and dry, a 70% lean burger will be juicy and tasty. As a bonus, a lot of the fat drips off in the grilling process. As for grilling steaks, consider less expensive cuts like the skirt and hanger steak over the pricier strip or ribeye. When seasoned and cooked wisely, the cheap cuts won’t taste cheap.

Embrace meatless Monday. It’s an easy way to save a little cash and get a little healthier: At least once a week—it doesn’t have to be a Monday—go meatless. You can still fire up the grill. The Meatless Monday movement offers plenty of suggestions for meals planned around grilled vegetables. Quinoa and white bean burgers anyone?

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